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Encyclopedia of Hindu Gods


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Throughout the ages, Vishnu has incarnated himself in various forms when the Dharma was in danger.

1.  Matsya - Matsya, the 1st avatar of Vishnu, assumed the form of a fish. Matsya retrieved the Vedas for Brahma and saved humanity from the flood.

2.  Kurma - Kurma, the 2nd avatar of Vishnu, helped the demigods get the Nectar of Immortality by churning the Milk Ocean. Kurma bore the mountain on his back to allow them to churn the ocean without the mountain sinking into the ocean floor.

3.  Varaha - Vishnu became a boar to recover the Earth from the bottom of the ocean.  After returning the Earth to safety he defeated an Asura.

4.  Narasimha - Vishnu took the form of Narasimha, which is both man and lion, in order to kill the evil ruler, Hiranyakashyap.

5.  Vamana - Vishnu became the Dwarf, Vamana, to control a king who had taken over much of the earth.

6.  Parasurama - Rama the axe-wielder, or Parasurama, is the sixth incarnation of Vishnu.  He was a great warrior and the defender of the Brahmins in their fight against the Kshatriya caste.

7.  Rama - Rama is the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu.  Rama is the hero of the Ramayana which the story of Sita’s abduction by a demon king and her subsequent rescue by Rama and his friends.

8.  Krishna - Krishna is the eighth avatar of the god Vishnu.  In the Bhagavad-Gita he appears as a profound teacher. Furthermore, he is often depicted as a  young cowherd who loves the cow maidens.  Other descriptions include Krishna as a mischievous child, a heroic slayer of demons, and a king.

9.  Balarama - Balarama, the Hindu equivalent of Bacchus in Greek and Roman mythology, is the older brother of Krishna.  Those who do not believe that Buddha is the ninth avatar place Balarama as the ninth.

9.  Buddha - Those who do not believe that Balarama is the 9th avatar of Vishnu place the original Buddha in this position.

10.  Kalki - Kalki is an apocalyptic figure, who will supposedly bring an end to the Kali age in order to usher in an era of purity.

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